From Partha Banerjee:

India govt’s ghastly Commonwealth cleanup of the poor

I’m deeply troubled. Very deeply troubled.

An inconspicuous report in British paper Independent shows how the Delhi administration in India is sweeping up hundreds of thousands of poorest of the poor — men, women and children — from the city’s streets and jailing them randomly. I heard they are doing it because of the upcoming Commonwealth Games in October when sports personalities, politicians, dignitaries and most importantly, corporate businesses will come to our once-colonized land and spend their royal time and money to celebrate another round of the so-called global fraternity. Oh yes, some of them will run, jump and play ball too.

And Indian middle class will cheer.

So, in order to make the city look clean, the streets beggar-free, and the country wear a First World image, Delhi and India governments have taken on an urgent mission, with a religious zeal, to pick up the countless, hapless, half-naked, starving Indians — men, women and children — and are indefinitely putting them in India’s dreaded jails before they’re shipped out to somewhere across the country. What will happen to these God-forsaken millions and their lives, livelihoods, social connections and dignities? I’m sure they’ll let us know when the celebrities and business houses check out after the Games. Normally, in India, middle class don’t query on social connections or education of street children.

We’ve seen such grotesque acts of violence in India many times over the past, particularly since India graduated from its mediocre non-alignment, “socialist” days to a glitzy-globalized “democracy” days. We’ve seen numerous, bloody communal riots, barbaric genocide of the poor in the name of religion and caste, and international terrorism. We’ve also seen a massive change of government with transition of power from a so-called right wing dark force to a so-called centrist liberal enlightened. The new leaders of India are not the zealots and bigots, but internationally known economists and academics, United Nations celebrities, and of course, the Gandhi Dynasty — I’m sure they have certain qualifications too.

In 2002, when a barbaric carnage took place in Gandhi’s state of Gujarat when thousands of poor Muslims were slaughtered by a bigoted chief minister and his bigoted administration, there was international uproar: the New York Times, BBC, CNN, PBS, NPR and all other big-name media organizations gave us the ignorant a thorough coverage and insider information on the ghastly violence. In 2008, when a group of Pakistan-based terrorists snuck in to the five-star Taj International in the Indian Wall Street city of Mumbai and killed hundreds of hotel residents, there was another series of media uproar; CNN provided unprecedented, round-the-clock, “ticker-tape” coverage of the terrorism. We were delighted to see the extent of responsibility corporate media displaying to unearth major events happening on the other side of the world.

I’ll make it short. This time around, however, when another major act of violence is happening in the capital of West-blessed India, I see no outrage — barring a few small news blips here and there — either by the mighty human rights groups and their liberal followers, or by the mighty media that spent so much of their precious time and money to uncover Gujarat or Mumbai. I’m sad and disappointed, but not truly surprised.

The liberal outrage — either of the international rights and justice groups or of corporate media — is selective, and media keeps manufacturing peoples’ consent for or against a social, political or economic event. If the Gujarat (or the 1992 Babri Mosque) carnage is ghastly (and they are), then the Delhi clean-up of the begging destitute is equally grotesque: in the former, poor people die immediately; in the latter, poor people die a slow but sure death because of police torture, forced displacement, starvation, hunger, poverty and depression. In case of the latter, women and children suffer the most. In both cases, the brutality leaves lifelong, negative impacts on the surviving children who’d spare no time to act back against the repressive system with their own acts of violence.

I hope ordinary people both in India and the West (and perhaps some conscientious media people) pick up on this new fascism of the India government, and force them to stop this state-sponsored violence and brutality.

Again, I’m deeply troubled — to see the inaction and lack of outrage, especially of the elite liberal that screamed their lungs off before. You can’t have a double standard to denounce hate.

Thank you for reading my quickly drafted note.

Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York
March 14, 2009